For British filmmakers Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the Cornetto is more than just a tasty ice cream treat that comes in three flavours. Because their comedies don’t share connected characters, the Cornetto is one of several delicious thematic elements that ties the movies together. Wright, Pegg and Frost’s two previous films “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” or flavours if you will, are also united by running jokes, loving homage to specific genres and stories about the power of friendship. The third variety in their series, also known as the Cornetto trilogy, is no different; it’s an action-packed, booze-addled sci-fi adventure called “The World’s End.”
“The World’s End” focuses on Gary King (Pegg), grown man whose mind is trapped in the early 90s. Gary pathetically clings to what he considers the best night of his life: an attempt he and his friends made to conquer their hometown’s epic pub crawl: The Golden Mile. Down on his luck and desperate to recapture that feeling, he convinces his pals (Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Consadine) to join him for one more effort to take on all 12 pubs in one night. However they quickly hit a snag in their journey, after discovering that mysterious forces now control their town. Can they free everyone from these shackles and live long enough to have a pint at the final pub, The World's End?
Recently I sat down with Wright, Pegg and Frost for a roundtable interview to discuss "The World's End," the dangers of nostalgia and how they achieve their amazing choreography. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
Q: The characters and stories in your movies aren’t connected, so what made you decide to turn these them into a trilogy?
Simon Pegg: It was more that we kind of realized about 'Hot Fuzz' time that we could make it all thematic. People always ask ‘Are you going to make a sequel to 'Shaun of the Dead?'’ And we kind of maintain that 'Hot Fuzz' was the sequel to 'Shaun of the Dead.' And the way that evolved is that the films became sort of thematic relatives. And when it became apparent to us that we were going to be able to do a third one, we felt like we could really wrap up all three films, and really consolidate them as a piece by developing themes that we sort of started in the first two and in sort of bring it all together you know? And it felt like something we wanted to do for ourselves as much as everyone else. It felt like we were being completists and and neat with it all. That they could sort of exist as a piece kind of a thing...Each film is about someone having to make a personal change in their lives in the face of an onslaught by a sort of large force. It’s Shaun has to grow up, and [Nicholas] Angel has to grow down, and Gary [King] has to let go. That felt like a sort of really nice kind of sort of thematic wrapup. Also we wanted to sell it as a box set.
Nick Frost: It’s also not over. It’s just the end of this trilogy. There are two more trilogies to come.
Q: Nostalgia for the early 90s is plays a big part in this film, especially for Simon’s character Gary. Did you guys worry about getting too caught up in that nostalgia as you were writing the movie?
SP: No. The film is about nostalgia and about the dangers of nostalgia. And the way that we kind of, you have to sort of experience a degree of nostalgia for it to work. So we did that with music. Music is timeless, but it also evokes the period that it came from. I’m not nostalgic at all. I look back and say ‘That was fun,’ but I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that it’s important to be happy in the now. Because otherwise, too much nostalgia means that you’re not. Yeah I had fun in the 90s, but I don’t want to f**kin’ go back there.
SP: I get upset now if I don’t have 3G for two minutes.
NF: On strong behalf of all of us, we’re really enjoying what we’re doing right now. I think I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.
Q: All the bars in the film are named after real ones and the story is structured so that each name corresponds with what’s happening. What came first? These stages? Or all these real bars that you wanted in the film?
Edgar Wright: What we did was, we had this idea that like there would be literally 12 steps to the end, the Gary, very deliberately. And the last bar would be The World’s End, because The World’s End is the name of a real bar, somewhere we all used to frequent in North London.
EW: I know, we’re in Boston. Pub. So we knew it was going to be The World’s End, and then we wrote the story and we attributed the names to the scenes, based on what happens in the scenes. So we had this book of pub names, and some of them are ones that are quite commonplace. Some are that there’s only one or two of them, like The Famous Cock, which is actually around the corner from my house in London. I assumed that was a very common pub name. Turns out, that’s the only one. So then we had to get permission from them.
NF: Quite a lot of cocks isn’t there?
EW: (Laughing) There’s a lot of cocks. But the idea was sort of, I always used to be fascinated by pub names because they sound sort of flowery and descriptive even when the actual pub itself is sh**ty. Some of them have history and then some of them are just a stock name like The King’s Head. There’s like millions of them...There’s a lot of things in the film, what we like putting in are omens. It’s almost like doing chapters in a book. It’s like the name of this chapter...Even the signs themselves have imagery that’s like kind of clues to what’s gonna happen. We love that idea, because it’s kind of just packing in lots of detail might not see until the second watch. Hopefully it’s the kind of film that you see and enjoy it enough that you want to watch it again.
Evan Crean: There are some really polished scenes in the film. One involves Gary fighting beer-in-hand without spilling it. Another pays homage to the ‘70s Invasion of the Body Snatchers with feet walking in tandem. Do scenes like that require a lot of rehearsal or are you guys really just that good?
EW: No, they almost had sort of two different choreographers. In the scene with not spilling the beer, that’s our stunt guys Brad Allan and Damien Walters. Those are the two choreographers. And that’s part of that fight, but it’s very much based on, Brad Allen is an Australian stuntman. He’s worked with Jackie Chan. And Jackie Chan is turn inspired by Chaplin and Buster Keaton. So it’s like looking at those. And we actually looked at a lot of Buster Keaton clips. But that whole idea of doing something that it’s funny and it’s violent, at the same time is quite difficult to pull off. The thing in that scene is that Gary should never let go of that beer, so the challenge is like let’s fight one handed. So he’s switching, and there’s a particular shot, which is really tough to pull off, where he spills it in the air, and catches it again. There’s no CGI in that shot. And I never thought they were going to get it, because when they did the rehearsal for it, it took like 20 takes.
SP: You had to kind of flip it, when you’re busy pushed around by a Hungarian stuntman.
EW: To answer the second part of your question, the other bit where they’re walking along in time, that’s with a dance choreographer. Those choreographers work in time, that’s where there’s overlap. We had a lady Litza Bixler who also did the Queen scene in 'Shaun of the Dead.' In that case, everybody on that street is working to a click track. And sometimes they’re listening to The Doors in their ears, with ‘Alabama Song’ playing.
SP: Or it was blaring out across the street.
NF: It’s not just us either. It’s all the extras in the street.
EW: So all the extras are working off this click track.
SP: (Counting) Five, six, seven, eight. (Snaps) And one and two and…
EW: When you see those wide shots, everyone is walking in time. I love doing those big choreographed things. It’s a lot of fun.